Weather Monitoring Satellite Meteosat Launches
July 8, 2012

Weather Monitoring Satellite Meteosat Launches

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redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The latest in a series of European Space Agency (ESA) geostationary meteorological satellites was successfully launched into space late last week, the organization has announced.

In a July 6 press release, ESA officials confirmed the Thursday launch of an Ariane 5 rocket carrying the third Meteosat Second Generation (MSG-3) probe. The vehicle departed from a spaceport at the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana at 21:36 GMT, the agency reported.

It is the 10th Meteosat probe to go into service since 1977, BBC News Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos said, and it is in the process of being maneuvered into position approximately 22,400 miles above the Earth's surface. There, it will constantly monitor developing weather systems, feeding pictures into the daily forecasts provided by meteorological agencies throughout Europe.

Alain Ratier, Director-General of the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), told Amos that verification and testing of the new Meteosat satellite's systems will take approximately eight weeks, and that the first image is set to be published on August 6.

Controllers at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) will need to help guide the satellite to a geostationary orbiting position at zero degrees longitude above the Gulf of Guinea on the equator. The satellite's orbital speed will then be adjusted to match that of the Earth's rotation so that its sensors have a persistent view of the continents of Europe and Africa, the British news organization said.

"Tonight´s launch allows EUMETSAT and ESA to continue providing Europeans with high quality observations of weather from space, with MSG-3 being especially valuable in rapid detection and warning of extreme weather situations," Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of the ESA, said in a statement.

“For more than three decades now, the exemplary cooperation between ESA and EUMETSAT has been the basis of the success of the Meteosat and EPS/Metop programs," he added. "These programs have ensured high-quality weather forecasts, the successive generations have improved these forecasts and they have brought tangible economic benefits for and improving the daily life of every European."

The first-generation Meteosat Operational Program was launched in 1995, and the second-generation started with the use of improved satellites in 2004. Thursday's launch was the third second-generation satellite to be launched into orbit, with a fourth (MSG-4) tentatively scheduled for an early 2015 launch.

"MSG-3 ensures the continuity of the present service. Together with EUMETSAT, ESA is working on the development of the next series of weather satellites, Meteosat Third Generation" ESA´s Director of Earth Observation, Volker Liebig, said on Friday. "Once operational at the end of this decade, this next generation will provide a quantum leap in terms of technology and performance, providing among others faster imaging, more spectral channels and an atmospheric sounding capability allowing for the measurements of trace gas profiles."